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Indonesia, India strengthen relationship 

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Jakarta: Indonesia and India agreed on Friday to boost relations after the leaders of the two countries held a bilateral meeting in Jakarta that saw the signing of four agreements designed to increase cooperation between the two nations, reports thejakartapost.com.

Indian Prime Minister Manmohan Singh and President Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono said that the two countries faced the same challenges and opportunities in the future.

“We realize we have great potential. We also realize we face the same challenges. Therefore, the strategic partnership between Indonesia and India should be based over the long term for the benefit of the two countries,” President Yudhoyono said during a joint press statement after the meeting at the Merdeka Palace on Friday.

Singh is in Jakarta on his first official visit to Indonesia in a bilateral context. He visited Bali in 2011 to attend the East Asia Summit and Jakarta in 2005 for the Asia-Africa Conference. A strategic partnership was inked by the two countries that year, aiming to make Jakarta–Delhi one of the most thriving bilateral relationships in the region.

During Friday’s meeting, the two countries signed four memorandums of understanding (MoUs) aimed at enhancing cooperation on healthcare, disaster management, graft eradication and efforts to combat drug trafficking

“Indonesia is one of India’s most valued partners in our Look East policy,” Singh said. “Our bilateral relations are rich with potential and are growing rapidly.”

Singh was referring to a 1991 policy adopted by India that has sought to establish closer ties with East Asian economies.

He also conveyed India’s deep appreciation of Indonesia’s strong support for the evolution of India’s strategic partnership with ASEAN, as well as Indonesia’s leadership role and the association’s efforts in fostering broader regional cooperation and integration.

“We look forward to working closely with Indonesia in important regional, multilateral and global forums,” he said.

The two countries also agreed to draft a comprehensive action plan for “meaningful and mutually beneficial security cooperation” and were looking forward to strengthening cooperation on space, research and training and education in the future.

“As maritime neighbors, we also have shared interests in maritime security,” Singh added.

“The MoU on cooperation in disaster management and combating narcotics trafficking signed today will also give more substance to our growing security cooperation.”

Singh is being accompanied by two ministers during his visit, namely External Affairs Minister Salman Khurshid as well as Commerce and Industry Minister Anand Sharma.

The two attended the India-Indonesia CEO Forum which hosted business leaders from both countries, including Venu Srinivasan from the TVS Motor Company Limited, Indo Rama Synthetics managing director OP Lohia and Tata International Ltd. chairman B. Muthuraman.

Bilateral trade between the two countries will be the focus of the forum. Indonesia-India trade reached an estimated US$20 billion in 2012, according to data from the Indian government.

Foreign direct investment (FDI) by Indian firms totaled $78.1 million across 58 projects last year, while it amounted to $57.1 million in 59 projects from January to June this year.

Both countries have set the target of $25 billion in bilateral trade by 2015. “The bilateral trade in the last seven years reflects the greatest potential of our economic relations,” Singh said.

“I emphasized to the President that measures to increase trade and encouraging investment, as well as an early conclusion of the bilateral comprehensive economic cooperation agreement, would greatly expand our economic relations,” he said.

“We also agreed to improve connectivity. Early implementation of the India-ASEAN free trade agreement [FTA] in services and investment and the regional comprehensive economic partnership would also be important in this regard,” Singh added.

Yudhoyono agreed, saying the two countries were facing similar economic challenges amid the ongoing global economic turmoil.